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June 23, 2016 Off

13th U.S. Resident Linked to Islamic Extremism in 2016

Akram Musleh of Indiana, arrested for attempting to travel to join ISIS

Akram Musleh

Akram Musleh, an 18-year-old res­i­dent of Browns­burg, Indi­ana, was arrested on June 21 for attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh had been engag­ing with ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda since at least 2013, when Musleh was a 15-year-old high school student.

Accord­ing to author­i­ties, the FBI first came into con­tact with Musleh after it was dis­cov­ered that he posted three videos of Anwar al-Awlaki to YouTube in August 2013. Awlaki, an Amer­i­can cleric and English-language pro­pa­gan­dist for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, was killed in a drone strike in 2011, but his speeches and quotes remain pop­u­lar among extrem­ist indi­vid­u­als and those rad­i­cal­iz­ing today. Indeed, the major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2011 have allegedly down­loaded mate­r­ial cre­ated by Awlaki or shared his speeches and state­ments on social media.

Upon find­ing the Awlaki speeches, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that the FBI met with offi­cials at Musleh’s high school, and coor­di­nated with them to dis­cour­age Musleh from radicalizing.

Follow-up took place at Musleh’s school. It is unclear whether any mea­sures could have been effec­tive in Musleh’s case; he had allegedly obtained infor­ma­tion on Awlaki from a fam­ily mem­ber, and so appar­ently had at least one close per­sonal con­tact encour­ag­ing his rad­i­cal­iza­tion. In any event, the mea­sures unfor­tu­nately failed.

In April 2014, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh asked minors at a park if they wanted to join ISIS. In 2015, Musleh allegedly made mul­ti­ple attempts to travel to Turkey or Iraq, areas adja­cent to ISIS-controlled ter­ri­tory that are often used ini­tially as des­ti­na­tions for indi­vid­u­als attempt­ing to join the group. In 2016, he allegedly researched attack tar­gets and explo­sive mate­ri­als, and then tried again to travel to join ISIS, this time in Libya, where the group has an active fac­tion. He was arrested en route from Indi­ana to New York, where he allegedly intended to catch a plane from John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tional Airport.

Musleh is not the only U.S. res­i­dent to rad­i­cal­ize while still in high school. In 2015, 4 minors in the U.S. were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. They are among a total of 25 U.S. res­i­dents aged 21 or younger linked to such activ­ity that year. Seven U.S. teenagers were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014.

In recog­ni­tion of this dis­turb­ing trend, ADL has released a series of resources for edu­ca­tors and school admin­is­tra­tors that pro­vide back­ground infor­ma­tion about extrem­ism and mass vio­lence among school-aged indi­vid­u­als and mate­ri­als for cre­at­ing resilience among their stu­dents. Among the mate­ri­als pro­vided is a back­ground report on mass vio­lence and extrem­ism geared specif­i­cally to edu­ca­tors and pro­duced in coop­er­a­tion with START, the National Con­sor­tium for the Study of Ter­ror­ism and Response to Ter­ror­ism, at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land. This back­grounder pro­vides infor­ma­tion about pre­cur­sors to vio­lent activ­ity and estab­lish­ing appro­pri­ate sup­port and refer­ral net­works. A sec­ond resource is a unique les­son plan focused on enabling stu­dents to rec­og­nize pro­pa­ganda if and when they encounter it and to become more dis­crim­i­nat­ing con­sumers of online mate­ri­als. Par­al­lel resources for par­ents are avail­able as well.

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May 24, 2016 Off

List of Americans who Joined ISIS Reinforces Statistical Trends

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain, among the Amer­i­cans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

NBC recently released the names of 15 U.S. res­i­dents who allegedly trav­eled to join ISIS since 2013. The names had been pro­vided to the net­work by an indi­vid­ual who claimed to be a defec­tor from ISIS and were report­edly ver­i­fied by West Point’s Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Cen­ter and other coun­tert­er­ror­ism specialists.

While three of the indi­vid­u­als on the list – Abdi Nur, Yusuf Jama, and Dou­glas McCain – had already been pub­licly known, the other 12 had not. The list serves as a reminder that, while a con­sid­er­able num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents who have attempted to travel to join ISIS have been iden­ti­fied, there are still more whose iden­ti­ties remain unclear – as many as 250 accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. The names and back­grounds of indi­vid­u­als on the NBC list also serve as vital reminders of the diver­sity of the indi­vid­u­als attracted to Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, and rein­forces what we do know about who these indi­vid­u­als are.

Indi­vid­u­als on the list came from across the U.S. Among the states rep­re­sented were Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Min­nesota, New York , Ohio, Texas, Vir­ginia, and Wash­ing­ton. This geo­graphic diver­sity is no sur­prise. ADL’s analy­sis of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism between 2009 and 2015 indi­cated that the indi­vid­u­als had been arrested in 32 states, as well as inter­na­tion­ally. States with the high­est num­bers of arrests included New York, Min­nesota, Cal­i­for­nia and Illinois.

One of the indi­vid­u­als on the list was female, and the rest were male. While fewer women have engaged in activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism than men, the pro­por­tion of women has increased in recent years. ADL doc­u­mented only 12 U.S. women in total linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013, but there were 10 in 2014 and seven in 2015 (exclud­ing the woman on the NBC list); there has already been one woman out of the 11 U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy thus far in 2016.

Inter­est­ingly, the woman on the list, Zakia Nas­rin, was joined in her extrem­ist pur­suits by her hus­band and her younger brother. Of the 109 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014 and 2015, at least 28 indi­vid­u­als were accused or impli­cated together with fam­ily members.

The aver­age age of the indi­vid­u­als on the list when they trav­eled to join ISIS was 22 years old. The old­est was 33 and the youngest 18. This is a lit­tle younger than aver­age. ADL data indi­cates that the aver­age age of U.S. res­i­dents who trav­eled or attempted to travel to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions abroad between 2009 and 2015 was 25 years old, while the aver­age over­all age of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy was 28. How­ever, the num­ber of young peo­ple has been increas­ing as well; in 2015, there were a total of 25 out of 81 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy who were 21 years old or younger.

At least one of the indi­vid­u­als on the list claimed to have con­verted to Islam. A lit­tle over one quar­ter of U.S. res­i­dents who have been linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in recent years sim­i­larly were not raised iden­ti­fy­ing as Mus­lims, but rather con­verted or claimed to have con­verted to Islam, at least nom­i­nally. Impor­tantly, these con­ver­sions do not nec­es­sar­ily mean they are accepted as Mus­lims by the main­stream Amer­i­can Mus­lim com­mu­nity, nor does it mean they have been par­tic­u­larly obser­vant. As with other indi­vid­u­als linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, these con­verts embraced rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam.

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January 8, 2016 Off

No Sign of Slowdown for Islamic Extremism Arrests in the U.S. in 2016

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, arrested January 6

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, arrested Jan­u­ary 6

Two U.S. res­i­dents were arrested on Islamic extrem­ism related ter­ror charges in the first week of 2016 and a third allegedly com­mit­ted a shoot­ing on Jan­u­ary 7 on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Fol­low­ing record-breaking num­bers of ter­ror related arrests in 2015, these new arrests por­tend sim­i­larly high lev­els of Amer­i­cans engag­ing in plots and other activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the com­ing year.

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, a res­i­dent of Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, was arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al-Janab, an Iraqi-born man who had moved to Syria and then come to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in 2012, is accused of mak­ing false state­ments in a terror-related inves­ti­ga­tion. Al-Janab had orig­i­nally left the U.S. to fight with Ansar al-Islam, a Syr­ian ter­ror­ist group, between 2013 and 2014. Ansar al-Islam had been affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda until August 2014, at which time it merged with ISIS.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a res­i­dent of Hous­ton, Texas, was also arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al Hardan, who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2009 and is cur­rently a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent, is charged with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by attempt­ing to join the ISIS and with lying in his nat­u­ral­iza­tion application.

A third man, iden­ti­fied as Edward Archer of Penn­syl­va­nia, allegedly attempted to kill a law enforce­ment offi­cer in Philadel­phia on behalf of ISIS. There were at least four instances of Islamic extrem­ism inspired vio­lence against law enforce­ment offi­cers in 2015.

The two indi­vid­u­als arrested were Iraqi born men of Pales­tin­ian descent who entered the U.S. as refugees. They report­edly com­mu­ni­cated with each other regard­ing their extrem­ist aspirations.

The vast major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents engaged in ter­ror­ism related to Islamic extrem­ism are U.S. cit­i­zens.  Between 2009 and 2015, refugees accounted for only three per­cent of the U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extremism.

In 2015, only 3 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism had entered the U.S. as refugees. One of the three, Harlem Suarez, entered the U.S. as a refugee when he was a child but appears to have con­verted to Islam and rad­i­cal­ized while in the U.S.; Suarez was a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent when he was arrested for attempt­ing to bomb a Florida beach in sup­port of ISIS.

2015 also saw a spike in attempted domes­tic attacks. There were 18 plots dis­cussed in total in 2015, com­pared to 1 in all of 2014.

78 U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2015. A full list of the indi­vid­u­als, as well as exten­sive analy­sis, is avail­able in the ADL report, “2015 Sees Dra­matic Spike in Islamic Extrem­ism Arrests.”

In Octo­ber 2015, FBI Direc­tor James Comey indi­cated that there were 900 open inves­ti­ga­tions of sus­pected home­grown extrem­ists, the major­ity of which are related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since that time, there have been 12 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror, at least three of whom (San Bernardino shoot­ers Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq and Farooq’s friend, Enrique Mar­quez) had not been mon­i­tored by law enforce­ment prior to the San Bernardino attack in Decem­ber 2015.

 

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